Having just finished a re-read of the entire Malazan series, I dove into this one looking forward to seeing where a couple of the loose story lines ended up (Humble Measure, Tayschrenn, Leoman). While Esslemont did finish these three character plots off for us, nearly everything else about this book was a complete disappointment. This is the second of Esslemont's books I've tried to enjoy, and it will be the last.
1. It jumps around too much. Esslemont jumps constantly from character to character, sometimes spending no more than a page or two with each. While this works okay in small doses and when the action is intense enough to call for it - an entire book in this style is tedious at best.
2. Characters are hardly recognizable. While I wouldn't expect Esslemont to exactly match Erikson's characters, none of the named characters seem remotely like their Erikson namesakes. Kruppe is just oily and baffling - not humorous, articulate, or clever. Leoman is smug and lazy. Antsy just whines a lot, but not the humorous whining of the series or clever anxiety that gives him his name. Just whiny. Spindle is only recognizable because Esslemont continously reminds us of his hairshirt. I could go on, but you get the idea.
3. The two plot lines don't really coalesce at any point. Without spoilers, I couldn't figure out why he combined the two storylines at all into one book. Either would have made a great story if told better, but together they just came across as incomplete, rushed, and disjointed.
4. Inconsistencies were irritating. From an often-discussed gender change for one of the Elder gods, to numerous physical inconsistencies - they're all over the place. Considering how much weight Esslemont puts on trying to be subtle by describing the appearance of someone rather than using their name, it would be nice if he got their appearances in line with what we know from the series. And don't get me started on his ham-handed attempts at subtltey.
5. Lots of needless narrative. This seems odd to say when I think about how rushed this book feels, but there are a bunch of useless interludes. Why is Rallick even in the book? The pointless cameos by Stonny and Harllo are distracting without adding one iota to their story or any other. There are other cameos by minor characters that seem like Esslemont is trying too hard to amuse long-time readers with Easter eggs. Better handled, this would have been nice - but it wasn't.
6. The story is ridiculously rushed. I got the feeling that Esslemont didn't really know how to tell the story he had in his head. It had the potential to be a GREAT story - what reader of the series didn't want to know what Humble Measure was up to and where the Segulah came from? And knowing what happened to Tayschreen - why he didn't appear at the final battle in Book 10 - is a nice bonus. That said, the plots just rushed along with little coherence or tension. The climax came and went with little fanfare. The Epilogue was oddly the most satisfying part of the book.
There's more that I didn't like, but that's enough to give an idea. Add to that the incredible number of editing mistakes throughout, and I got the idea no one gave Esslemont an ounce of feedback before this was rushed to print. That's a real pity, since this could have been so much more. Two stars for effort, but I'm not going to waste time on future efforts.